Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27, 2010

Look at this, three days in a row.  Actually I wrote them all the same day after a lovely Sunday in the yard.

Saturday we spent the evening with some good friends of ours.  We had wanted to duplicate their window boxes filled with various varieties of mint.  We had the idea last summer when we were over at their house and they offered us some mint water.  All it was was ice water with brused mint leaves in it.  You can't believe how refreshing it is on a hot summer day.

So last summer I bought the self watering window box containers from Wal Mart.  Last fall I used them for lettuce, but this spring they took on their permanent role. Mint containers.

I have been wating all winter for the local hardware store by our friend's house to get their stock of mint in.  Last week I got the call saying they were in.  We picked out multiple varieties of mint.  Well, my wife picked them out since I had a cold or allergies so I couldn't smell a thing.  In additon to the mint, we got lemon thyme, lemon balm and pineapple sage.  The thyme went into the containers to break up the mint leaves so I could tell them apart when they all grow together.  Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

When we got home late Saturday, the plants just went outside with the tomatoes.

Sunday morning was spent planting and weeding with my Aunt.  First we planted a Spanish Lavender that I got to replace the one that died last year.  The bees LOVE it and it completes the triangle of cross-pollination for my blueberry plants.  This time I planted it in the back of the blueberry bed so the bees won't be too close to the kids.  I know they won't sting, but I'm not so confident that my kids won't get carried away and stumble into it.

Anyway, digging out a hole about 2 feet from an old evergreen stump should have warned me of this, but the going was slooooooow.  There was a five inch thick root running through my hole.  It took me the better part of an hour to dig a hole, since it required using an axe on the root.  Here is a picture of what came out of the hole to make room for the lavender.

After the hole was cleared, the planting went smoothly with compost in the bottom and a bit more mixed in with the native soil for the infill.

Now it has room to grow and expand and won't be near the edge of the rock wall where the kids play.  In front of that is where I planted the pineapple sage.  It too is small righ now, but I saw the one my friends cut back from last year. It was a good one foot in diameter and woody.  It went in much easier as it was a little seedling, but the planting process was the same.  This corner that used to just have a sprawling lavender, is really comming together.  I should really take a picture of the bed, but it needs more weeding. Don't all beds that aren't filled with Mel's Mix? hehe.

After my Aunt left, I took the time to plant up my mint.  I was good about taking pictures so bear with me.  Here is me figuring out the placement of the plants within the containers.  There is already an initial layer of compost at the bottom.

The planting went pretty easy, though I ran out of my compost and vermiculite mixture and topped them off with straight compost.  They should like it.

Like my impromptu work station on top of the kiddie play set.  Probably should Craigslist that one unless our friends want it for their babby.  My youngest is too big for it.

Here the bins are in their semi-permanent resting spots between the beds in my garden.  I was thinking about haning them from the fence in the garden, but they would have to be right at the top to not be shaded by the fence.  Also, I would have to buy the hangers, and I'm still Mr. Cheap until I find a job.

You can see that they fit nicely between the beds so they're 2 feet long.  You can also tell that the path ways between the beds are useful things.  The pot on the ground has my Stevia plant in it. It's come back with a vengence! I don't know if I'll keep these where they are once the trellis goes up in back and the SWCs get set up with my tomatoes.  That would make for a crowded path way.  Not sure where these will go then.  Oh, and you can see the size of my collard greens.  Going to have to ask EG what to do with them, hehe.

Overall, this was a productive gardening weekend, with some great quality time with the kids in the afternoons.  Who could ask for more?

Monday, April 26, 2010

April 26, 2010

This post will mostly be random thoughts and pictures from the past two weeks since my last post.  Again, no clue where the time has gone. I mean, this time last year I was working 60+ hours a week, spending time with the family and still had time to blog nearly every day (6 or so days a week).  Now I'm at home all the time and can't get more than 1 per week.  Bad me.

Well, my lettuce has finally taken off.  I mistakenly only planted one square foot of each type of lettuce, remembering the deluge of greens I had last summer.  Stupid me, that was the heat of the summer, not early spring.  Next year I need at least 2 square feet of each variety to have a few salads a week at this time of the year.

As you can see, the Italiensheir is only a few inches tall instead of a foot tall, but should be tender this way.  My salad bowl is sad looking and even the Red Sails are at haf mast.  At least the radishes in the lowe right corner are not ready yet, so I am hopeful a good salad is in the making.

About the only thing holding it's own is the mustard greens.  Funny thing about them.  I swear the package says mustard greens and I got them from my good buddy EG last year.  Unfortunately a few emails and photos detemined that they were indeed Collard Greens.  He apparently never had any mustard greens.  I'll try them in a salad, but if they don't work, I'm going to have to email EG for a recipie, hehe.  I've been to the South as a kid, but never had the pleasure of eatting collard greens. 

Think they're too big to eat raw?  They're even bigger since this picture was taken.

Speaking of salads, they just aren't the same without tomatoes.  Of course I won't have any ready until mid-late summer, but I have been taking them for a walk every day.

As you can see, all but one has been potted up to a 2 quart pot.  I know folks like my brother already have theirs in the ground, but I got a slow start, so mine are a bit delayed.  I will hopefully plan them in a week or so.  Also, you can see I'm using the popsickle sticks from the dollar store with the names written with a Sharpee.  They seem to be holding up to watering and the rain, so I'm hopeful I won't have a repeat of last year's mystery tomato season.

Lastly, my neighbor and I share a lilac bush. Well, it's mine but since it was planted too near the fence line, it grew under and into his yard.  He likes it too so he doesn't complain.  He does like to repeatedly ask why the flowers on my side are light lavender and his are downright purple.



It is absolutely the same plant, though my side gets more direct sun.  The only other thing I can think of is that for years I had three tall cedar trees right next to this, so maybe it turned the ground acidic or something.  No clue.  One of the great mysteries of life.  Either way, it's still a gorgeous tree.

Enjoy your garden!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25, 2010

Again, it seems like I've been blogging every day.  Well, I haven't.  Mostly I've been spending every sunny day in the yard working on something or other, thinking I should blog about it.  Then I get the kids down and do some job search and stupid FB crap, then it's time for bed.  Oh, and I'm reading a gardening book for Patti's newsletter and going to review it for her.  Other than that, the job market appears to be picking up a bit by the number of calls I've gotten and interviews I've got lined up.  The potential for me finding a job has sent me into daddy overdrive, trying to eek out every moment with the boys that I can.  Still, the nice weather screams garden, so I obey.

I can't believe I haven't mentioned my strawberries.  I've wanted to plant strawberries along the edge of my rock wall blueberry bed for ages.  Each year at our preschool auction, one of the parents contributes 6 or so pots of 10+ strawberries that they weed out.  Every year I bid and lose.  This year, I worked it out so that if I did lose, I could snag some directly from her.  Alas, for $7 I got a pot.  The next day my Aunt and I got them in the ground since they were about to flower...

First we weeded the bed, at least where we were planting.  Despite the aging layer of beauty bark, weeds are prolific in that bed.  Then I dug little holes about a foot apart along the edge of the bed, leaving a 2 foot opening between the two blueberry plants for easy entrance to the bed.

Then I collected a bucket of my trusty 2-year-old compost and worked a handful into the soil at the bottom of the holes.  After that, it was time to separate out the pot-o-strawberries.  My aunt had the great idea to do it in my wheelbarrow to avoid bending so much.

I ended up with 11 plants that could easily be separated.  Some were more like 2 plants and some were barely plants at all.  Still, we got to work planting them.

You can see in the background that the blueberries are benefiting from the heavy mulch of pine needless from my neighbor.  That and the rock wall may be in desperate need of repair, but it still makes a nice bench to sit on to plant.

After filling in around the seedlings with native soil, I mounded with more compost.

You'll note that the compost still has a bunch of little dried grass clippings and twigs in it.  I don't use a shredded to chop up my compostables into fine bits (though I could).  It's also drier than I'd like, but having a cover over it for a year tends to dry things out.  I have since propped up the lid to let rain get to it.

Since I planted them, most of the plants have flowered and grown the little hard buds where strawberries form.  I was told by the donor that this should be a heavy producing year for the plants, so I didn't pinch back the flowers.  I had intended to train the runners to fill in the gaps.  However, a good friend of ours just offered up their own strawberry weedings.  I am excited to fill in the gaps with different varieities to have strawberries all season long.  I may go 2 rows deep with runners some day. Not sure.  My whole family loves strawberries.  Time will tell.

Well, this post is long enough.  I will do a few more and forward publish them since I have time.  Hope your spring weather is as gorgeous as mine and you have had time to enjoy your garden!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April 6, 2010

Man, it sure feels like I'vele been blogging tons over the past week, but alas, I haven't.  You know this from the lack fo posts. I guess I've just thought I'd been keeping up with it.  Oops.

Well, Easter came and went, along with spring break for the kids.  The weather was crappy all week, which was bad for letting the kids go out to play, but at least it cleared up for Easter. 

I'll spare you the tons of pictures and even video clips of my kids racing for Easter candy, though I did want to share a few shots from the day before.  My eldest wanted to leave carrots for the Easter Bunny.  Just not any carrots either, but ones from our garden.  Before I could get out there to stop them, each had pulled from the not-quite-ready to harvest patch of over-wintered carrots. I had hoped they would pull from the didn't finish harvesting the overwintered fall carrots patch.  It's still adorable what they did.

Being out there in the garden made me want to do some spring clean-up and planting of spring's carrot patch.  Logan wasn't too keen on helping this year, despite his desire for the spoils.  Thankfully by the time I had them nearly done tilling the bed to aerate it for carrots, they were in heaven. 

We did 12 SF of carrots in the middle of bed 4, where I planted potatoes last year.  I actually found a few yukon gold husks that I'd apparently missed.  With that many squares and rain interrupting us, most of the patch got 16/SF spacing, but some got far more than that.  A little thinning never hurt anyone.  And they sure had a blast!

Speaking of potatoes, my brother never asked for my potato bins like he was supposed to.  I had planned on giving potatoes a rest for a season given my planned absense during the critical hilling stage.  Of course, Mother Nature had other plans.  I couldn't help but notice that what I thought were weeds in the bins that I hadn't taken down over the winter, were actually potatoes that I swore were not there.  I dug and dug with my hands trying to find some to no avail last fall.  But sure enough, each bin looked just like this the other day.

I plan on hilling a bit to give the taters room to bloom, but not the tower of old.  The system works if you work it properly.  I just haven't yet. 

I've got tons more to talk about, but this post is getting crowded as it is.  So I'll leave it with a slight breakthrough.  I swear I only brought up chickens to my wife a few times, but the kids keep wanting to go back to the chicken house near my folks place.  So, much to my shock and surprise, my wife starts asking questions about chickens the other night, clearly looking for answers that will cross off her cons.  Like how do they stay warm in the winter and what do you do with them when they die (she doesn't want to eat pets).  Great conversation insued, and I didn't push.  I'm still bidding my time, mostly because it'd be a rush to get them now for spring and we're planning an extended vacation if I'm still not working for early summer.  Of course, if I am working, there's no way I'll have time for chickens if it's a high-pay, high-stress job.  Still, it's a MAJOR step in the right direction.

Enjoy your garden!